(This might not instantly sound like a board exam tip, but it is. Just read through.)
Being the youngest engineer in our company, I discovered how I sorely miss having peers to mentally spar thoughts with. I had a lot of these peer-given intellectual stimulation from college days, board exam review, and my other two jobs. During my board exam review, a huge component of the success we (UP graduates) had as a team came from the very solid support that we got from each other. One of the joys of learning is discovering things at the same time with another person who loves the industry or subject as much as you do.
You might think that I had a lot of support during review. In fact, I spent a great deal of my time crying especially during the last 3 months of it. I had numerous arguments with my mother during review season. She told me that my preparations were overkill whenever I ask her to turn the television off while I am reviewing.
My immediate family suffered a lot from my “extreme” measures of preparing for the license exam. This is one painful truth about aspiring for something. As a person preparing for board exam, you can silently expect to be ostracized by people who are not able to understand the magnitude of your board exam preparations. You will get criticized, you may be called “OA”, and even your own school might not be as supportive with your efforts especially if they think that board exams are just a giant dog and pony show.
There may be some truth in the fact that a board exam does not make an engineer in the truest sense of the word. But it still brings in a lot of advantage in your career advancement. As you advance, you can be opposed heavily even by people you expect to understand you at this phase. But you have to be determined enough to surmount those insults and just keep striving to give it your all. These adversities will prompt you to answer this question: How much do you want this? How far are you willing to let this take you?
My concept for overpreparing during review is that I wanted to trudge through life with no regrets. I don’t want to look at my score in the board exam and have a what if nagging in my head. I don’t want to give less than my best and then ask myself later: What if I studied harder? Would I have gotten a better score if I ditched my other work or lessened my Facebook time? I actually have board exam buddies who had that in their head and well, it’s not really a very peaceful afterthought though you can eventually get over it.
As far as I know, I gave that exam my best shot and I was fortunate to discover that my efforts somehow loved me back. In love or relationships, you can give everything you’ve got and still be unappreciated. But in your studies, work and board exam, you can give it your all and somehow expect a good thing coming back.
The other day, I slept at my fiancé’s house and I experienced the other side of the fence, so to speak. My SO’s sister is preparing for her design defense and juggling it with her board exam review with other fellow students. This translates to numerous overnight sessions with a lot of engineering guys and girls, that are, in a young females’ family’s point of view, very difficult to adjust to. I had those too in college and my mom hated the fact that a new person kept sleeping at our place every other night. It’s really a thing that consumes resources.
Board exam season is not the right time to deal with heavily emotional issues. Avoid all distractions if humanely possible. If people criticize you for your methods of preparing for your exam, please don’t take it personally. Remember this: only those who are able to experience the actual pressure of reviewing and getting the license with some ambition to aim a good slot or rank will be able to commiserate, understand your situation, and make allowances for you. The true test is that even when you have all these hassles and lack of support from your loved ones, you should still want to become a licensed engineer.
Having said that, it might be good to buddy up with the right people for the much-needed support. During review class, don’t sit with people who do nothing but chitchat about other things and who do not know what they want out of the exam. I mean, it’s good to have a break once in a while and I am a fairly talkative person with people that I like. But when it comes to the actual business of absorbing as much information as possible for the board exam, it is best to sit with like-minded people with the same goals as you have. You can be charitable enough to teach others what you know after you made your preparations solidly. But you cannot let toxic people eat your time and discourage you from your goals for the exam.
To balance, I have to say that it is not just about you at this phase. You also need to consider your family or loved ones who are suffering from your new schedule. In my case, I decided to move out of my house so that I can study in a quiet place and that my family can resume watching noontime shows or whatever they feel like doing at home. I also decided not to eat too much (it makes me really sleepy when I do that!) and settled on veggies, soya, and Skyflakes to avoid ulcers. I do this so that my minimal allowance from my father monthly will not be wasted. I try to preserve the monthly allowance as much as I can because I decided not to work during review and money does not come from trees.
Speaking of Skyflakes… I had a good friend during board exam that turned out to be one of my closest friends beyond board exam. His name is Homer. It was a friendship forged by Skyflakes because we can only afford to eat Skyflakes and a regular-sized container of french fries during our overnight sessions at Mcdo Morayta.
We talk almost everyday during board exam review. Until now, we find ourselves talking with each other regularly about life, about work, and about how we got here from where we were before. I cannot imagine life without one of my good friends.
Certainly, there have been many changes. We used to be wide-eyed engineer wannabes who like playing with the Crystal Eye webcam of our classmate:
He graduated cum laude and he had the pressure to live up to during the exam. People were somehow relying on him to top the exam. I had the pressure to make the most of the exam because I had a challenging schedule as a working student in college. Somewhere, our goals intersected and we used that to sharpen each other’s saw intellectually.
We are now both licensed engineers. We got what we want and more. He is now happily employed in the banking sector. I guess we are not filthy rich like most people, but we can somehow afford a good meal, like an occasional Friday night dinner:
We had buffalo wings, tempura, fried rice, and that weird froyo dessert Teriyaki Boy had been promoting in their menu listing. The dessert was not as good as we expected, but the buffalo wings are spicy and extremely rich in flavor.
Strangely, I already mentioned our top 1 engineer (Machele), my model bestfriend Jhona (top 8), and my little brother Joseph (top 9) in this blog, but I have not yet made a post about Homer, who succeeded in garnering third place in that same board exam. So I am making this board exam tip post today as a form of thanks to my good friend Homer for being with me during board exam and beyond.
As we watched the Cubao night scene from where we were seated, we talked about how things have turned out for us professionally including the numerous adversities we encountered as students and aspiring engineers.
Another unspoken but true lesson learned from preparing for the board exam is that you will know who your true friends are under the times of severe stress. If you are open and fortunate, you can also find the best people you can spend your life with as you hit those books and crunch those numbers in your PRC-approved calculator. Another engineer I know met her partner in life during review classes. The possibilities are endless, really. It’s not always about getting the best grade there is, although you can wear yourself out trying to achieve things.
So to those who are having a hard time during review and are experiencing the frictions that only the pressure of the board exam can provide, here’s one tried and tested advice: toughen up with the insults, get working with laser-beam focus on your study plan, make friends with the good bunch for support, kill distractions immediately, and do your best.
In truth, there are no physical costs equivalent to a real friendship but they’re absolutely priceless. The relationship may or may not be perpetually sustained by expensive night outs of wine or a night out at a nice place like Teriyaki Boy. Sometimes, the best moments involve munching on Skyflakes mindlessly while juggling index cards that need memorizing with a down-to-earth person that you can be comfortably yourself with.
Homer and I may be eating and sharing more than Skyflakes at this phase of life, but I will always remember him fondly as the review buddy who linked an armpit mnemonic (private joke ito!) to presidential decrees with me as we juggled our numerous thoughts on life and on our goals. Thank you so much, Homer, and see you tomorrow.